Australian Film Festival at the Barbican

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London’s Australian Film Festival kicked off at the Barbican this week. Guests at Thursday’s opening gala were given goodie bags stuffed with Aussie treats such as Twisties, Cherry Ripes and Picnic bars, yum!

But it wasn’t all sweetness and light. The festival’s opening film, Samson and Delilah, was a heart-wrenching tale of two Aboriginal teenagers struggling against circumstance. Directed by Warwick Thornton, the film manages to speak volumes although the two title characters never utter a word to each another. Samson (Rowan McNamara) and Delilah’s (Marissa Gibson) silent bond is strong though, and manages to withstand a hopeless situation made worse by substance abuse and homelessness.

The film is set in the harsh but beautiful landscape of the Australian outback, where the sky at dusk or dawn shows bands of colour like an ice lolly. It’s real but seems almost fake, when juxtaposed with the London drizzle outside. It’s a painful metaphor that in that bright Australian sunlight, people often fail to see the devastation others are experiencing.

But for all its bleakness, the film contains a message of hope at the end, and I left feeling a different sort of homesick than I expected for the diversity and contradictions of the terrible, wonderful place that is Australia.

As well as Samson and Delilah, the London Australian Film Festival (now in its 15th year!) serves up a wide selection of Aussie movies including features, documentaries and short films. Most are new releases but there’s also some classics, such as a newly restored print of 80s cult hit Dogs In Space. This film features a young Michael Hutchence (the late INXS frontman) as a Melbourne punk back in the day, and I can highly recommend it for the scene in which they flip a VW Bug alone!

Get your fix of Aussie goodness for another week at the Barbican. Ends 28 March. Get tickets from the Barbican Film website